The Immigrant Dream

Immigration has been an integral part of american history since its conception. Although immigration has taken many forms immigrants have always had the same goal, to seize opportunities in order to lead a better life and fulfill their american dream.

By Chandan A. from Okemos High School in Michigan


Immigration in the US started in the 1790’s shortly after america gained independence. Back in the 1790’s an immigrant had the right to become a citizen as long as, "…any [immigrant], being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States..." (Imai), immigrants during this time tended to come to america to escape the violence and war at home, a majority of the immigrants from this time period included french refugees from Haiti (Liberty Ellis Foundation). Immigration started to gain traction around the 1820’s due to the opportunities that the industrial revolution created which gave birth to the american dream that we know. During this period the the transcontinental railroad was completed and was built almost completely by Chinese immigrants. But unfortunately this was also around the time when immigrants started to face discrimination, “Chinese workers worked longer hours and had to pay their headmen or contractors for their own lodging and food and even for their tools; on the other hand, the Central Pacific and Union Pacific provided white workers accommodations, food, and tools without additional cost” (Stanford). Despite this immigrants continued to flow into the country in pursuit of their american dream of success and good fortune for them and their family. Around the late 1800’s immigration reached its peak. People from all over the world poured into america with the goal of making a life for themselves, large part of these people also came so they could support their families at home. With an increase in immigration came an increase in discrimination. Laws that created quotas that restricted immigrants from certain countries were passed, divides between nationalities started to form. But then came WW1, while it was bad for most of the world it did allow the people of america to look past their racial boundaries and work together as a country as evidenced by the National Park Service, “Americans appreciated the contributions immigrants made to the labor force and did not feel threatened by ethnic diversity” (National Parks Service). Finally in 1965 the Immigration and Naturalization Act was passed which threw out the quota system which , in five years, quadrupled Asian immigration (Liberty Ellis Foundation). Fast forward to modern times, “There [are] 39.9 million foreign-born people in the United States” (American Progress). It is important to mention that my parents are included in this number and have played a huge role in shaping my opinions about this topic. My parents immigrated to the US around 1997 shortly after getting married and arrived in Philadelphia in search of their american dream. 5 years later they gave birth to their first child and soon after their second and third. I feel that my father fulfilled his american dream when he was able to buy a house and support his family and our relatives back in India. It is easy for a first generation american to take things for granted and not appreciate how lucky they are to have been born in a world far more forgiving than the home of their parents. A constant reminder of this are the relatives who pull water from wells and miss school to work. This sentiment is shared by many other immigrants and is also why they believe that america should open its borders so that people from less privileged countries may come to america and lead a better life for them and their children. This same ideology was also present during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s as immigrants from then faced similar troubles at home. Although poverty rates, education, and sanitation are getting better (Roser), the motivation for immigrants to immigrate still remain the same, to fulfil their american dream.

Works Cited

The New Colossus - The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, www.libertyellisfoundation.org/immigration-timeline.

“Chinese Railroad Workers.” Stanford, Stanford, web.stanford.edu/group/chineserailroad/cgi-bin/website/faqs/.

Farkas, Steve. “What Immigrants Say About Life in the United States.” Migrationpolicy.org, 2 Mar. 2017, www.migrationpolicy.org/article/what-immigrants-say-about-life-united-states.

“Immigration and the Great War (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/articles/immigration-and-the-great-war.htm.

Imai, Shiho. "Naturalization Act of 1790." Densho Encyclopedia. 19 Mar 2013, 20:38 PDT. 10 Dec 2018, 19:51 <https://encyclopedia.densho.org/Naturalization%20Act%20of%201790/>.

Nickson, Chris. “The Importance of Ellis Island in American Immigration.” The Importance of Ellis Island in American Immigration, 2017, www.exploregenealogy.co.uk/ellis-island-american-immigration.html.

Roser, Max. “Proof That Life Is Getting Better for Humanity, in 5 Charts.” Vox.com, Vox Media, 23 Dec. 2016, www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016/12/23/14062168/history-global-conditions-charts-life-span-poverty.

Team, the CAP Immigration. “The Facts on Immigration Today.” Center for American Progress, www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/reports/2012/07/06/11888/the-facts-on-immigration-today/.

Okemos High School

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